‘Colombiana’ Review

Published 4 years ago by

Zoe Saldana Colombiana Review Colombiana Review

Screen Rant’s Ben Kendrick reviews Colombiana

Looking at the recent work of Colombiana star Zoe Saldana (Star Trek, Avatar, and The Losers), coupled with the previous directorial efforts from Olivier Megaton (Transporter 3 and second unit work on Hitman), it’s no surprise that the focus of the pair’s latest film, Colombiana, is visceral, in your face, action.

Relying on one of the most irritating film trailers in recent memory, “Never forget where you came from,” it’s easy to dismiss Colombiana as just another style-over-substance action flick – rooted in a familiar international revenge plot line. That said, is the actual film just as formulaic and bizarre as the trailers seem to indicate – or does Colombiana actually offer an exciting, and hard-hitting, action experience at the theater?

Unfortunately, there are few films that exemplify the style-over-substance approach more than Colombiana.

As mentioned, it’s not exactly surprising that a film from Olivier Megaton prioritizes action over character development, but the larger problem with Colombiana is that it strives for something deeper than just a Transporter-like actioner starring Zoe Saldana – and most of the time, falls completely flat in both the emotion and action categories.

Despite what should be a “shocking” opening set-piece, the basic premise of Colombiana is a root cause of the film’s inability to get any real traction. The storyline offers very few original ideas. With an international backdrop, mobsters, and political intrigue, the plot points should be especially predictable to regular filmgoers as well as anyone familiar with screenwriter Luc Besson (Taken): As a young child, Cataleya Restrepo (Zoe Saldana) witnesses the murder of her parents in Bogota after her father attempts to cut ties with a Colombian mob boss. Cataleya then makes her way to America (ultimately Chicago), where she reunites with her Uncle Emilio (Cliff Curtis). Inspired by Xena: Warrior Princess comics, Cataleya tells Emilio that she wants to be a killer and over the course of 15 years she trains, and works, as a talented assassin. Her uncle arranges contract hits, mostly high-profile criminals (a ponzi scheme head, drug dealers, etc), and Cataleya takes down the targets – all while hunting the people responsible for the murder of her parents. After the news media picks-up on the string of high-profile contract hits (Cataleya marks each kill with an image of the Colombian “Cataleya” Orchid), she’s set on a reckless collision course, littered with dead bodies, to kill the crew that murdered her family.

Young Cataleya Restrepo Colombiana Colombiana Review

Young Cataleya Restrepo in 'Colombiana'

Instead of producing a high-octane, but mostly brainless action film, Colombiana is an uneven and melodramatic flick – as a result, the over-the-top actions of Cataleya don’t just fail to deliver enjoyable on-screen pandemonium, they are completely at odds with the tone of the film and the psychology of the main character. It’s hard to blame Zoe Saldana for the film’s inability to get genuine emotional traction – the actress, despite a few scenes that are overly sentimental, manages to successfully showcase the different shades of Cataleya Restrepo: a complicated personal life, aching childhood scars, as well as a ruthless physicality (one particularly hard-hitting scene could almost rival MMA fighter, Gina Carano’s performance in Steven Soderbergh’s upcoming film Haywire).

That said, a convoluted development of Cataleya’s character on the page undercuts Saldana’s performance – and the resulting on-screen character isn’t particularly likable or empathetic. Scene-to-scene Saldana is enjoyable to watch with what could have been an interesting character psychology, butwhen viewed as a 110 minute film, Cataleya’s actions (as well as assassin work) stretch suspension of disbelief even in the best scenes and flat-out contradict each other in the worst ones. By the end of the film, it’s clear that Megaton and Co. almost always choose the most roundabout way for Cataleya to kill her marks – which undermines the character’s efficiency as an assassin, in favor of what the filmmakers must have felt would be memorable on-screen imagery (a scene involving a shark tank is especially absurd).

Prioritizing over-the-top imagery in favor of more meaningful attempts at character development works in a more straightforward film (such as the Transporter movies) – but in Colombiana, these stylized set-pieces constantly disrupt meaningful moments. For example,  in order to prove the importance of education to young Cataleya, Emilio fires-off several gunshots outside of an elementary school in front of a crowd during broad daylight (one bullet even hits a passing car and causes the vehicle to crash into a fire hydrant), only to wax poetics with his niece about being a “smart” killer – before slipping on his fedora and walking down the street unnoticed as Chicago police swarm the area. As a result, the on-screen absurdity contradicts the tone of an attempted emotional moment – where potentially compelling characters are undermined by their “shock value” actions.

Zoe Saldana Colombiana Movie Colombiana Review

Zoe Saldana as Cataleya in 'Colombiana'

Most of the supporting cast is adequate but none of the performers are given a whole lot to work with – as nearly every character serves a mechanical “function” but not really a compelling “role” in the film: Michael Vartan is a clueless love interest, Callum Blue is a shady CIA agent, Lennie James is a by-the-books FBI profiler, and Jordi Mollà is a ruthless second-in-command mobster. There’s very little “resolution” to any of these side-character arcs – and virtually none of them offer anything but story points or obstacles for Cataleya to overcome.

Some moviegoers, who are less interested in what Megaton is trying to do with character and more interested in watching Saldana drive armored cars through brick walls, will undoubtedly dismiss criticism of the overarching story in favor of praising the minute to minute action in the film. However, as a result of all the time spent trying to tell a dramatic character story, the action set-pieces aren’t nearly as exciting as moviegoers (who were intrigued by the film’s trailer) might be expecting. Admittedly, there are a few compelling sequences (the fallout from the drunk-driving scene featured in the trailer is definitely one) but overall, there are very few new ideas, and even fewer surprises in Colombiana.

Colombiana is a hard movie to recommend since it’s caught somewhere in the middle of an engaging character drama and a brainless action extravaganza. As a result, the movie is stuck in a gray area where it’ll be too melodramatic for most action lovers and too absurd for anyone looking for compelling character drama.

If you’re still on the fence about Colombiana, check out the trailer below (and remember: Never forget where you came from):

[poll id=”181″]

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick – and let us know what you thought of the film below.

Colombiana is now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

2 out of 5

TAGS: Colombiana
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  1. Bummer. I like Luc Besson movies.

  2. I still plan on checking it out. Killing bad guys by a nice looking woman is almost always worth a look.

  3. Transporter 3 is visually the worst of the three movies,due to it’s sped up action and quick cuts,so even though Zoe Saldana is in this movie,I’m very hesitant to watch it.

  4. Don’t think I’ll give this sci-fi fantasy a try. I say sci-fi because it is totally unbelievable that this scrawny piece of chicken can do as much damage and @ss-kicking as portrayed. I don’t care how much she trained, there’s NO WAY that she can win in a fight with anyone who has ten pounds over her…and people gave Punisher: War Zone a hard time for being ‘over-the-top and unbelievable?!?

  5. who would pay 10$ to see this in theaters when itll have an early DVD release??

    • ^This +1

    • I paid $5

  6. I saw this last night and I loved it !!!
    Yes , there are are a few over-the-top moments BUT….. this is not a documentary , it is an action picture. It is fantasy :)
    The action sequences were top notch , Zoe Saldana did a great job with the character – she was great in all her action scenes and I thought the plot was quite engaging.

    This is a movie that will find its way into my collection :) :) :)

    • I agree. With action and the heart thumbing pace that Colombiana has, who needs character development? It’s about an old adage that will never die: sweet R E V E N G E!! Watched it twice and would watch it again!!

  7. Saw the trailer, looks like a 1,000 other movies – assassin gets a partner and feelings come out. Prob watch on Sky in about 3 months for free.

  8. Great movie! It’s nice to see a women of color doing action films again. Zoe was a perfect fit for this movie, and I like the international concept to the movie.

    • I’m going simply because I’ve waited decades to satisfy my “Cleopatra Jones” fix!

  9. love the movie

  10. I’ll wait for the $5 Wal-Mart bin where it will end up.

  11. I have seen this movie three times. It was well directed, well executed and performed, and was not predictable (hate those). This was a good time at the movies for me. I loved the fact that she didn’t talk too much and it was what she did that was entertaining. Zoe did an excellent job with her character. I will buy the Blue Ray for sure!

  12. Love to see the chemistry of Zoe and Idris in the remake of Body Heat where a beautiful and wealthy seductress lures and naive attorney into killing her husband. Loved loser. Denzel and Halle never did a romatic movie together in the height of their stardom. Idris and Zoe are really, really hott right now!!

  13. Cataleya es brava! Trabaja para su tío, pero nunca pierde de vista su verdadero objetivo: darle caza a las personas responsables por la muerte de sus padres y cobrar venganza.

  14. This movie is wonderful — The problem with reviewers is that they “think” everything to death, instead of just enjoying a fun film…Don’t listen to the reviews, go experience the film!! Zoe Saldana is awesomely cool & sexy, and her size is the POINT: Who would believe a little girl could do all that damage? But she does!! And could you see some chica with a regular-sized booty try to shinny down those ducts? It would be so ridiculous…Zoe’s character is called “Cat” for a reason: she moves like one!!
    And deliciously HOTT Michael Vartan is so much more than the “clueless boyfriend” — his love for her is her respite from the pain and death all around her…His love heals her heart and soul and brings out her humanity…Not to mention her hormones (le rrowwrr)…

  15. You know, when this article opened up, I almost cried foul (cuz i kinda liked it), but as I kept reading…yeaahh, it’s pretty on point. As a guy who likes his movies very well-defined (if it’s a action flick, let it be an action flick; a character drama, let it be a character drama; and action-oriented character drama, let it be action-oriented character drama!), I was a little disappointed. Sure, I got an adequate action fix, but that whole “kill-a-guy-in-a-car-in-the-middle-of-the-city-so-we-can-have-a-conversation-about-it-while-the-cops-walk-all-around-us” scene? I mean, come on…i think i’m really good at suspending belief, but that was just…yeah, i’m shaking my head in incredulity (the shark tank thing would have been cool had it been more developed, I suppose, but it just felt stupid. And while Zoe Saldana had me really moved with her dramatic scenes, it just felt…unbalanced by all the action scenes. The whole way through, I was like, “What exactly is this supposed to be?” I’m no movie critic, but i definitely agree with Ben on this one.

    P.S, ScreenRant rocks! :)

  16. the problem that I had with this movie isn’t Megaton’s decision to put style over substance. I enjoyed the opening sequence, her ‘missions’ and even her romance with Michael Vartan (he seems to be typecast with the same kind of roles) to make us root for her.
    What I don’t like about the movie is the fact that she put her family in danger by leaving clues and yet she continued doing it (it’s not as if she didn’t know what’s going to happen to them). Seeing her cry in front of her uncle should have made me root for her and yet I felt that she deserved what she got and felt sorry for her uncle.

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  18. I liked this movie the first time when it was called DOMINO!!

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  21. i’m watching it right now, it’s been pretty predictable right from the start, fair to say i’m bored out my tree, action my a$$

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